X.7 Mount Nimba Nature Reserve (Guinea/Cote d'Ivoire)
The Director-General of the Centre for Environmental Management of Mount Nimba (CEGEN), via his letter of 21 September 1999, has informed the Centre that the Government of Guinea created the CEGEN in 1995. It continues to explore the feasibility for exploiting the mine immediately adjacent to Mt. Nimba in a manner that would respect the integrity of the World Heritage site. The Government of Guinea, through CEGEN, has over the last few months entered into negotiations with UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to finance a project to protect of Mount Nimba and for the integrated development of its surrounding areas. The project is being conceived within the framework of a sustainable development programme that would integrate the mining project as the motor for enhancing the economic growth of the whole region. The study phase of the project was due to commence in October and the project is financially supported by the French part of the GEF and USAID. The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has also, via its letter of 20 September 1999, pointed out to the Centre that the dissolution of the Mining Company of Mt. Nimba (i.e. NIMCO), mentioned in the report of the last session of the Committee (Kyoto, Japan, 1998) is incorrect. According to the letter of the Ministry, NIMCO was never dissolved.
CEGEN has confirmed that over the last fifteen months the Ministry of Mines, Geology and the Environment has been trying to re-launch the project to exploit the iron-ore mine near Mt. Nimba. The Ministry is continuing negotiations with industry partners with a view to concluding an agreement before the end of 1999. Furthermore, the Director General of CEGEN has noted that CEGEN has been associated with the elaboration of an environmental agreement with potential investors of the mining project. The attachment to the letter from the CEGEN includes several articles of the agreement that is being elaborated. The agreement calls upon the two parties (i.e. the Guinean Government and the investors) to recognise that the mining area is adjacent to the core zone of the Mt. Nimba Biosphere Reserve which is inscribed on the World Heritage List. The two parties shall take all measures to protect the environment and, in particular, the World Heritage area, and re-affirm their commitment to follow the eighteen recommendations made by the World Heritage Committee in 1993. Furthermore, the two parties will invite the involvement of all international (i.e. World Heritage Centre, UNDP, UNEP and IUCN) and nongovernmental organisations that participated in discussions that led to the revision of the boundaries of the World Heritage site in the elaboration of the agreement. CEGEN has pointed out that it is obligatory that the agreement be signed before the feasibility study for the mining project is finalised. The Director General of the CEGEN believes that the implementation of the mining project would help set up an International Foundation for Mt. Nimba.
The Committee decided to retain this site in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee took note of the fact that, contrary to the reports submitted at its last session in 1998, the National Mining Company has not been dissolved and that the Ministry of Mines, Geology and the Environment is still undertaking negotiations with potential investors for beginning mining operations. However, the Committee recognised the efforts of CEGEN to establish an environmental agreement which investors interested in exploiting the mine would be required to sign before finalising the feasibility study of the mining project. It also welcomed CEGEN's intention to invite UNESCO, IUCN and other international agencies to participate in the elaboration of the agreement. Nevertheless, the Committee reiterated its recommendation made at its last session, that Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire invite the IUCN Regional Office for West Africa in Burkina Faso to undertake a site visit and prepare a detailed state of conservation report. This should include the future of the mining project and implications for the conservation of the site, and be submitted to the Committee at its twentyfourth session in the year 2000.